Video: Chair yoga for easing tension and reducing pain

September is Pain Awareness Month, and we’re sharing a guided practice that can be done anytime, anywhere to encourage movement and even potentially bring relief from chronic pain.

In 2019, one in five U.S. adults in the had chronic pain, and 7.4% of adults had chronic pain that limited life or work activities. Yoga therapy can ease tension, reduce pain, and provide opportunities for regular movement, supporting well-being in daily life.

In this guided video, Elaine Oyang, C-IAYT, teaches a 5-minute yoga therapy practice to support gentle movement for individuals with chronic pain.

“The trick is to move just enough that your body still trusts you and still feels safe and gets the benefits of movement without overdoing or overstraining,” explains Oyang. Yoga therapy differs from exercise in that it addresses one’s physical, mental, and emotional needs—it’s about working with the aspects of one’s being in an integrated way. 

Seated in a chair (but encouraging participants to practice from wherever they can—chair, couch, or sitting up in bed), Oyang demonstrates breathwork and gentle movements of the spine. “The more your nervous system can calm down, the less agitated it will be and the less frequently it will keep sending pain signals [to the brain] in the long term.”

Importantly, she emphasizes pausing in awareness between techniques: “Pause and let your body soften from the engagement, soften from the activity, return to neutral.” 

Practicing more of these movements throughout the day, she says, not only keeps the body fluid, but staves off the fear of moving the body.

Find an IAYT-certified yoga therapist to help you or a loved one with chronic pain.